Brian Armstead | TheDetroitBureau.com
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First Drive: 2017 Infiniti QX30

Shared tech creates new segment for Infiniti

by on Nov.10, 2016

With the debut of the 2017 QX30, Infiniti enters the booming compact crossover segment.

It’s what you don’t see that often determines what you get. Platform sharing has taken place for years, and it oftentimes makes good fiscal sense within a company like General Motors.  If you are fifity-ish or older, then you remember the 1970’s Chevy Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Regal, and Oldsmobile Cutlass, all sharing trim and mechanicals.

Today, Ford and Lincoln share parts among their sedans and SUVs, as does Lexus with Toyota, and most of the many Volkswagen Group brands. Why build something new when you can keep the bean counters happy by dipping into the corporate parts bin?

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But what is not always known is that manufacturers are more and more often sharing platforms and other technologies with major competitor.  There’s the Mazda Miata MX-5 and te new Fiat 124 Spider, for example. And now comes the Infiniti QX30, which shares running gear with the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250.

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No Car is an Island: Testing Out the 2017 Cadillac XT5

Our reviewer heads to misty Fogo Island to check out the new SUV.

by on Aug.02, 2016

The 2017 Cadillac XT5 is the replacement for the SRX. As a luxury utility vehicle, it checks all the boxes.

Fogo Island is an idyllic place, perched about as far to the Northeast as you can go in North America. Study the history of Fogo Island, Newfoundland, and you learn what grit and tenacity are all about.  Drive around the island, and you’ll see decades old waterfront buildings that used to process what was the Island’s economic mainstay, cod.

The history and economy of Fogo Island bear a resemblance to the story of one of America’s once storied automakers – Cadillac. Cadillac was formed from the remnants of the original Henry Ford Co. A new company called the Cadillac Automobile Co. was established in August 1902, named after French explorer Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac, who founded Detroit in 1701.

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Cadillac was purchased by General Motors in 1909 and became its prestige division. Some of its classic models today fetch hefty sums at collector auctions worldwide. However, as the years have passed, Cadillac lost the ability to compete on the high end of the luxury car scale. (more…)

First Drive: 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith

Leather-clad luxury missile.

by on Mar.29, 2016

Forward into the past, the Rolls-Royce Wraith harkening back to the grand GTs of yore.

“How much is too much?” That’s a question that frequently arises when the conversation turns to uber luxury cars.

“I would never pay $300,000 for an automobile,” some will say, which might rule out a car like the 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith. Actually, at $372,545 as tested, it’s not inexpensive by any measure, but after spending some time behind the wheel, we’re convinced it’s worth it.

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The 2016 Wraith embodies the best of the British motorcar tradition and continues to build cars where possible using “olde world” assembly methods like hand stitching, hand assembly and hand finishing of myriad leather and wood components.

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First Drive: 2015 BMW M3 and M4

by on Sep.04, 2014

The 2015 BMW M3 opts for a smaller, twin turbocharged engine that makes it part race car, part daily driver.

I never believed it would happen. Me, Mr. Mercedes and Audi, in love with a BMW. It’s not that I don’t like Bimmers, I think my aversion to them started when yuppies discovered the brand and started calling the Bimmer a “Beamer.”

The reality of it all is that BMW has and does build cars that are just as happy on the racetrack as they are on the street. And that’s even at the so-called “base” level. Consider the 3 Series, in production since model year 1977. It’s the quintessential performance sedan, coupe or convertible – just take your pick of body styles. It’s benchmarked by nearly every carmaker that wants to build a performance sedan. Add the vaunted “M” trim to the car, and you’ve got yourself a bona fide butt kicker.

Muscling Up the News!

For 2015, I’m adding BMW to my “favorite brands” list, journalistic integrity tossed into the wind like a seagull cresting Niagara Falls. I’d already fallen in love with what I think is the best sports sedan on the market, the 640i Gran Coupe, and then BMW added two more to my wish list with the introduction of the 2015 M3 Sedan and M4 Coupe. (more…)

First Drive: 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

Long, low and wide.

by on Aug.11, 2014

Fans of high performance Cadillacs who were worried when the maker announced the end of the CTS V Coupe will be happy to know that ATS Coupe is a worthy replacement.

It’s rare that I absolutely gush over an automobile. After all, as an automotive journalist I drive about 80 new vehicles every year. And yes, we’re talking Porsches, BMWs and Benzes, Bentleys and Bugattis. So when the press folks at Cadillac offered up the all-new 2015 ATS Coupe, my interest was piqued because I like the direction Caddy is moving in, but I was not ready for the superb effort that is the ATS Coupe.

The ATS is the baby of the Caddy lineup, with Big Daddy Escalade at the top of the heap, and XTS, ELR, SRX and CTS in the middle. The ATS can be considered in many ways a baby CTS, which in itself is a compliment. So imagine my angst when Cadillac announced that the scorching hot CTS Coupe, with its performance “V” variants would be eliminated from the lineup, replaced initially by the smaller ATS Coupe, with performance models to follow at some point in the future.

Muscling Up the News!

I immediately thought “Caddy is punking out. They want a cheaper coupe, and will somehow sacrifice performance.” I thought back to other performance/luxury oriented cars that Cadillac and parent company General Motors produced, got them just right, and pulled the plug. The GTO, XLR, Allante, Grand National and Firebird came to mind. But alas, this is no trickery by Caddy or the big General. I recently drove the all new Chevy Corvette, which I dubbed “the best American car I’ve ever driven.” That still holds true, but the ATS Coupe is certainly a strong number two. (more…)

Nudging 253 mph in a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport

From 0 to jail cell in less than three seconds.

by on Jun.14, 2013

A Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport at rest.

I’ve driven some really great cars in my lifetime.  Ferraris, Bentleys, Porsches, Mercedes – you name it, and chances are I’ve driven it.  That’s the life of an automotive journalist. But my head is still spinning and my heart is still pounding from a recent drive in what can be considered to the ultimate automobile, the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport.

It certainly is one of the most expensive, pushing $2 million.  And among the most powerful, nudging up towards 1,200 horsepower. And the fastest, pushing to speeds at which large jetliners would long be airborne. And the most exclusive, with production measured in the tens, not tens of thousands.

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The Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport is one of those rarities which, when given a chance you make sure to get behind the wheel.  But first, a little history.

The French car company with the Italian name (and now owned by German car company Volkswagen) was founded in 1909 by Ettore Bugatti.  Bugatti built some of the world’s most beautiful and successful cars, often raced against his main nemesis, Bentley.

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First Drive:2013 Audi S8

A gold medal contender.

by on Feb.19, 2013

Audi delivers a new flagship with the 2013 S8.

The Auto Union was an amalgamation of four German automobile manufacturers, founded during the Great Depression. The company eventually evolved into present day Audi, and the four rings that adorn the grilles of the brand’s modern offerings represent the four original companies of Auto Union: Audi, Wanderer, DKW and Horch.

Each company brought specific technology to the Union, and today Audi is widely known for building All-Wheel Drive cars that feature safety, prodigious performance and superior technology – as well as for its benchmark interiors.

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When you look at the four-ringed Audi grille, you can’t help but compare it to the Olympic symbol — five interlaced rings.  For 2013, just imagine that the Auto Union had an additional company–adding that fifth ring, as the all-new Audi S8 is truly a gold medal contender.

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First Drive: 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed

Autobahn Worthy

by on Jan.03, 2013

Tearing up the Autobahn at triple-digit speeds.

It was a scene I did not expect, but should have given the prodigious performance of the 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed.  Not satisfied with the mere 198 mph top speed of the “base” Continental GT, Bentley’s team of engineers, led by the effervescent Brian Gush, massaged the potent twin-turbo W12 engine in the GT Speed to output 616 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. Top speed after the upgrades: 205 mph.

We were encouraged by the Bentley media team to safely explore the upper limits of this beast, keeping in mind that our primary test route, the famous Autobahn network of highways across Germany, did have some sections with well-enforced speed limits.

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My driving partner and I were a bit late as we approached our departure from scenic Bavaria, Germany, as we had taken a bit too much time shooting video of the new GT Speed during our lunch stop.  So to make our international flight back home, we bypassed the route chosen by Bentley and tried typing the direct destination into the car’s GPS.

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